After the raging is a timely collection. Squarely situated in the Bradford of her upbringing but intimately connected to her Polish and Irish roots, Barbara Howerska demonstrates that belonging to ‘somewhere’ does not preclude an international outlook. Place and family are joined by memory and affection for ordinary lives as recurrent themes. Colour and taste, too, bring a sensuous dimension to poems that are boldly lit in magenta and aquamarine and flavoured with Polish vodka and pickles. Howerska is not afraid to engage with a broader perspective, as demonstrated by poems about Martin Luther King and the legacy of European fascism. There is the sense, too, that the worlds come together, making the personal political, with lovers ‘pushing against the old order’ and ‘women’s bodies fight[ing] the line’. This is a collection for lovers of poetry that is humane and vivid but firmly grounded in the everyday.
Barbara Howerska’s poems are devoid of the artifice of poetization, and where there is rhyme it rises naturally from the body of the plain language of ordinary people. She writes in the spirit of the early romantic poets and approaches Wordsworth’s goal of describing the lives of simple people in the language of the poor. She draws in the shadows of a dim and darker past, of war and Nazi domination, doing this by obtuse reference and allusion. This body of poems brings a new voice and a new style to narrative poetry, fusing past and present, the different cultures of Poland, Ireland and Britain and, bridging ignorance and suspicion, greets, ‘the long dead ghosts of a deeper brown’.